Reading Into Mark Davis Buying The Las Vegas Aces From MGM

Written By Marc Meltzer on January 15, 2021

Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis has agreed to buy the Las Vegas Aces from MGM Resorts International. The terms of the deal for the WNBA team have not been disclosed.

The Aces moved to Las Vegas from San Antonio in 2017. In 2018 the Aces played its first season in Las Vegas. The Aces play home games at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, which is owned by MGM Resorts.

The venue inside Mandalay Bay is located across the I-15 freeway from Allegiant Stadium where the Raiders play their home games. In a statement, Davis said:

“I am excited to announce that I have entered into an agreement to purchase the Las Vegas franchise in the WNBA from MGM Resorts International.”

“I will have more to say once I receive official approval from the WNBA Board of Governors and have had a chance to speak with the players, coaches and administrators of the team.”

There are still a couple of steps before this deal can become official. The WNBA and the league’s board of governors must approve the sale of the Las Vegas Aces to Davis. This process should take a couple of weeks before becoming official.

Davis is a big supporter of the Aces

Davis is an Aces fan and a season-ticket holder. Prior to the team playing the 2020 WNBA season at IMG Academy, fans could find Davis courtside at Aces home games. In 2019, Davis’ Raiders purchased nearly 2,000 tickets to Aces games to distribute to local children.

Davis is without a doubt a fan and one of the most famous supporters of the Las Vegas Aces. Could his fandom of the team and this deal be the beginning of a new era of professional basketball in Las Vegas? It’s entirely possible.

Could an NBA team be next for Davis and Las Vegas?

Davis purchasing the Aces could be the first step for Las Vegas to get an NBA expansion team.

Earlier this year, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league is exploring expansion as a way to recoup funds lost as the result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The league is definitely looking for one team and could add a second new team. It’s estimated that the owners of other teams in the NBA would share around $2.5 billion per new team.

Seattle tops the list of potential cities with Las Vegas close behind. It appears as though Las Vegas has a leg up on other cities. While Kansas City wants a team, there doesn’t seem to be a billionaire looking to own a team. Davis might not be a billionaire but he’s not hurting for money.

Las Vegas is ready for an NBA team. T-Mobile Arena is a state-of-the-art arena that can easily be configured for basketball games. The venue has hosted college basketball games since opening.

Las Vegas is also home to a billionaire who will soon own a WNBA team. Davis could consider expanding his Las Vegas sports roots by adding an NBA expansion team to his roster that will include the Raiders and Aces.

Coupling NBA and WNBA teams

Nearly half of the teams in the WNBA share an owner with an NBA team.

When the WNBA was formed in 1996 and played its first games in 1997, the NBA initially owned teams and the league as a whole. This changed in 2002 when the league started to divest teams to individual owners.

The WNBA isn’t entirely decoupled from the NBA. Five of the 12 WNBA teams share ownership groups with NBA teams:

  • Brooklyn Nets and New York Liberty
  • Indiana Pacers and Fever
  • Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx
  • Phoenix Suns and Mercury
  • Washington Wizards and Mystics

If the deal for Davis to purchase the Aces is approved as expected, he could look to bringing an NBA team into the fold. This would mean that half of the WNBA teams share an ownership group with an NBA team in the same market.

MGM selling the Aces could be the first step to Las Vegas expansion team

MGM Resorts selling the Aces could be the first step for Las Vegas being granted an expansion team by the NBA.

The international casino operator is having a difficult time managing its core gaming and hospitality businesses as the coronavirus continues to spread. MGM is exploring a way to improve its online gaming business with the acquisition of Entain.

This deal could improve MGM’s online casino and sports betting businesses. Enhancing the online segment of its business could help MGM increase revenue. This could also prevent another crash should casinos have to close and/or limit capacity in the future.

Online gaming is a complementary business to its retail casino operations. The Las Vegas Aces aren’t. Since the WNBA team isn’t quite as vital to MGM operations, it’s easy to understand why the company would sell the asset.

It’s possible MGM sold the Aces to a local businessman who could have the funds and to operate the team and also acquire an NBA expansion team. The casino operator likely wouldn’t want to own an NBA team if it even has the option.

The Nevada Gaming Commission doesn’t allow a casino operator to take wagers on sports teams it owns. For example, Golden Nugget can’t take wagers on the Houston Rockets since Tilman Fertitta owns both.

BetMGM operates in various legal sports betting markets outside of Nevada. Depending on the state, MGM Resorts might not be able to take wagers on a Las Vegas NBA expansion team or even the entire league if the company owned a team.

Sports betting is a crucial part of MGM Resorts’ future. Owning an NBA team wouldn’t be prudent. Selling the Las Vegas Aces could be the beginning of the future of NBA basketball in Las Vegas.

Photo by AP / Brynn Anderson
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Marc Meltzer

Marc grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He's the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.

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